388 Just Above My Head

justabovemyheadby James Baldwin, 1978

In his final novel, James Baldwin tells the sprawling tale of gospel singer Arthur Montana through the eyes of his older brother Hall. As the book begins, Arthur has been dead for two years. Hall remembers that he had been found in a pool of blood in the basement of a pub in London. The death still weighs heavily on Hall, who is never quite sure how it happened. In the present day, Hall and his wife and two children are preparing to go to a barbecue at his old friend Julia’s house. This offers Hall’s son the opportunity to ask about his uncle, namely, whether the rumors that he was gay are true. Hall explains that his brother slept with a lot of people in his life, mostly men, but that he was always proud of him. So begins the portrait of young man growing up black and gay in a country where neither of those identities was deemed acceptable.

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